*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #52 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Jonathan Nido is a big name in Switzerland’s underground metal and post-hardcore scenes. As a former guitarist for German post-metal giants, The Ocean, he also figured in progressive metallic hardcore heroes, Kehlvin, before making his name in the experimental noise rock group, Coilguns. During that time, he founded Hummus Records, which is now one of Europe’s most prestigious boutique labels for all things experimental and noisy. It came as no surprise when the elite Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands commissioned him to present an exclusive project at this year’s festival. Nido rushed to find a hidden stash of Dark Funeral-inspired riffs on his hard drive before he could give a yes to the proposal. The various musicians on his record label offered a natural lake of talent for him to tap into. How could he say no to the famous Dutch music festival?
Trounce is the name of Nido’s project, and The Seven Crowns is the debut album he recorded in the studio after premiering his music to 2000 people at Roadburn in April this year. It might be the only studio effort Nido and his buddies release, but it’s a remarkable showcase of extreme metal and art rock rounded out by a mischievous flirtation with post-punk. The question is not how is Trounce such a water-tight band with astounding technical abilities, but what is Trounce? Understanding this puzzle is what makes The Seven Crowns such a pleasure to deconstruct.
Album opener, ‘The Seven Sleepers’, will leave you with mouth agape for the entirety of its three minutes and thirty-six seconds. Blast beats and mystical voice incantations collide like an atonal black metal band fronted by the bastard child of Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke) and Rozz Williams (Christian Death). At the centre of this drama is lead singer, Renaud Meichtry of former Swiss sludge lords, Kruger. His pitch is a neurotic one given to bouts of ritualistic chanting and religious fervour. Joining him at the mic is Léa Martinez. Behind them, a two-pronged attack of barbaric drop-tuned guitars fret a web of complex dissonant shapes worthy of a tech death binge. Meichtry sounds like the victim of a priestly exorcism on follow-up, ‘Faith, Hope, Love’, which is the complete opposite to the mood suggested by its song title. Here, violent guitar rhythms rip through the speakers like electric tile cutters.
The fact that this art-school veneration of noise and unhinged aggression revels in monstrous low-guitar tunings is almost as surprising as the absence of screaming vocals. How many bands would inject a monotone growl of death metal phrasings or hysterical goblin shrieks over the top of this canvass? You can watch a spectacle of terror unfold on ‘Stones’ as if pre-warned of an impending atrocity, yet it still retains a power over you like a morbid fascination you want to deny. Blast beats rumble under the weight of the music as if providing a generator for the band to plug into for their energy supply. ‘Codex’ dares to contemplate what a thrash metal song might sound like in the savage tuning of Drop F. The results are not for the squeamish. Imagine English doom metal trio, Conan, jamming on a Metallica riff with hardcore gang vocals and a hysterical Captain Beefheart at the microphone.
Nido’s vision on ‘The Goose and The Swan’ and ‘The Crippled Saint’ is a blackened death metal one ensconced in a divine credulity. It shares some parallels with Akercocke, yet you can see how Trounce could become a black metal equivalent to what Voivod did to thrash metal when they took it apart and rebuilt it as an astral audio experience. And yet you’re still befuddled when the screeching robotic vocals of ‘Silene’ emerge from an assault of syncopated guitars and fuzzy reverberations that dig into your collar bone. Discordant arpeggio patterns creep through the gaps in the low-end bludgeoning like prisoners burrowing through their walls in the secrecy of night. Perhaps there’s a sense of humour underneath the avant-garde irony. ‘The Circus’ lives up to its name as a splendid hip-swaying waltz of post-punk guitars molested by the spirit of Venom and the trauma of Kayo Dot. Analysing how it evolves into a barbed wire piece of thrash metal at the close demands repeat listens with a pen and paper in hand.
Renaud Meichtry and Léa Martinez could be singing anything over the top of this chaos-mongering. Every vocal line sounds like an unnerving expression of fear dressed up as religious catechism. The aim is to rouse the faithful into an emotional state of ecstasy so they cannot question the emptiness behind their stupefaction. The extreme pounding of guitars and drums sweep you up into this frenzy in closing song, ’The Wheel’. Here, Nido sees the value of obliterating the listener with a vicious torment of black metal. The transition at 02:10 to a goose-stepping groove reminds you that you cannot take your eye off the wreckage for even one second unless you want to perish.
Trounce started as a one-off assembly of musicians showcasing the best of the Hummus Records talent pool. The live performance of The Seven Crowns on CD2 is just as important as the studio offering on CD1 – if not more important. But the fact the group went to the studio after unleashing their live carnage speaks of a sensation that invigorated those involved. If this is a standalone LP, it’s a devastating way to announce yourself and then depart. Let’s hope this is not the last we hear of Trounce.
Release Date: 20/10/2023
Record Label: Hummus Records
Standout tracks: Faith, Hope, Love; Codex; The Circus
Suggested Further Listening: Akercocke – Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone (2005), Voviod – Nothingface (1989), Schammasch – Hearts of No Light (2019)